A new study from German Solar Association and the Becquerel Institute has concluded that with the right policies and support, Africa could be adding as much as 29 gigawatts (GW) of new annual solar capacity in 2030.
The Solarice Africa market report published by the German Solar Association (BSW-Solar) and the Becquerel Institute last week studies the solar market in ten African countries — Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania. Even though the entire continent of Africa has only installed 5,110 megawatts (MW) of solar to-date, it nevertheless has significant potential. According to the authors of the report, “In order to unleash the deployment of solar PV in the African markets, adapted infrastructures and access to financing are required.”
The report outlines three scenarios forecasting solar PV development — a “Policy-Driven” scenario, a “Business as Usual” scenario, and the headline “Solarize Africa” scenario, which assumes that Africa will experience the same kind of solar PV development as the rest of the world.
Specifically, according to the Solarize Africa scenario, BSW-Solar and the Becquerel Institute believe that — with most barriers rapidly lifted, allowing solar PV to “develop according to its potential and needs” — annual capacity additions could reach as much as 4 GW to 6 GW in the next few years, increasing to 10 GW a year from 2024, and hitting 29 GW a year in 2030.
The authors also believe there are reasons to believe the African solar market could develop faster, reaching these targets earlier than predicted, “but this would require significant policy developments which are not often visible yet.” Thus, the authors of the report believe their Solarize Africa scenario is “most probably after 2021-2022 and will lead to significant installation levels.”
“The solar potential in Africa is large, as is Africa’s energy demand, and we are optimistic about many of the markets we analyzed,” said David Wedepohl, Managing Director of BSW-Solar. “However, only relatively few photovoltaic systems have been installed so far. At the moment, the capacity of all solar power systems on the entire African continent is at around 5 gigawatts – just over one per cent of the total global installed solar power capacity. “We estimate we would need about 2,000 TWh Solar PV to fully decarbonize the energy consumption on the continent by 2040.”
Massive solar PV expansion is possible across Africa regardless of its various levels of solar radiation, relying instead on local conditions, market access for foreign investors, and political stability, according to the authors of the report.
However, the report also highlights outdated and inadequate grid infrastructures in many of the regions investigated, which would serve as significant obstacles to future growth and expansion. On the other side, though, according to Gaëtan Masson, Managing Director of the Becquerel Institute, “In only partially electrified countries, off-grid solar and storage power solutions can sometimes enable a lower-cost electrification than the expansion of electricity grids.”
While government subsidy programs and support from international organisations is necessary to support the expansion of solar PV in Africa, it will not be enough on its own. “Smart business models are needed in order for photovoltaics to become mainstream in Africa,” explains Wedepohl. “Even those who cannot pay for their photovoltaic system upfront must be able to benefit from solar power generation.”